"I am frightened. Father Mark frightens me. This is what is wrong.
In this moment - this very particular moment, with me reddening and him smiling"I am frightened. Father Mark frightens me. This is what is wrong.
In this moment - this very particular moment, with me reddening and him smiling - I see something a tad sinister, in his eyes, calculating, measuring, appraising me like I am a bauble, a jewel with karats, clarity, cut, a possession. Something moves inside me, turns to ice, and a small, cold bead of warning lodges itself in the bottom curve of my heart and I think, How have I not noticed this before? and Maybe I didn't allow myself to and Why did it take me so long to see?"
Olivia Peters is finishing her junior year at Sacred Heart, an all-girls Catholic school. She is bright and beautiful, so much so that she feels others often underestimate her because of her looks. Her world immediately changes, when she wins a high school fiction writers contest, one that will allow her to attend a summer seminar by a local priest/bestselling author, Mark Brendan. Olivia is excited, because she has idolized Brendan's work for years, and knows the opportunities that this will afford her. But as she begins to meet with Father Mark, she realizes that his interest in her work, and in her as a person, is becoming uncomfortable. Without even understanding how it has escalated so quickly, Olivia finds herself fearful of Father Mark, of his attention, and what he will do if she does not respond to him. With the help of her boyfriend, best friends, and her mother, Olivia must try to reconcile her deep Catholic faith, and her lifelong dreams of becoming a writer, with the fact that Father Mark's interest in her has become more than friendly.
An excellent book about an unhealthy teacher-student relationship, but also about a crisis of faith. Freitas, who teaches religious studies at Boston University, writes about Olivia and her situation with great understanding. I did find the plot line a little transparent, and I would have appreciated knowing more about why Father Mark felt so drawn to Olivia in the first place. Still, this is Olivia's story, not his, and the novel is very strong when it takes readers inside Olivia's mind as she grapples with what is happening to her. ...more
"I said no to my dad this morning. The five-foot seven soup can of a man nobody denies. It's got to be his arctic blue eyes; they're like the edge of"I said no to my dad this morning. The five-foot seven soup can of a man nobody denies. It's got to be his arctic blue eyes; they're like the edge of a knife. And still, I told him I wasn't going to Stanford or any college next year.
Now I was stranded on Ocean Street with a few hours to find some rat hole to rent. So much for a graduation present."
So begins the saga of seventeen-year old Jasmine Kiss. Thrown out of the house by her father, she heads to Santa Cruz, to find a place to live, and more importantly, a place to play her music. Jasmine has never had a chance to truly explore how good she could be with her guitar, and wants to take some time to do just that, for herself. Once in Santa Cruz, however, her car breaks down, and she realizes that she hasn't exactly thought her plan through that well. She lands an audition with a local up-and-coming industrial band, for a guitarist/roommate. While not everyone in the band is sold on her - her youth and gender are not in her favor - Jasmine is able to move into a seaside house, and begins practicing with the band, while working at a local psychic shop. But Jasmine left out one important detail in her audition: she's never played before a live audience. At her new band's first gig, that fact becomes painfully apparent to everyone, and Jasmine has to dedicate herself to not only overcoming her personal fears, but winning back the confidence of her bandmates as well. Her blossoming romance with the band's bass player complicates things significantly, along with the rival band also competing for a coveted tour slot.
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Kelly's first novel. I like her eye for quirky characters, and her ear for authentic dialogue. And, as in Harmonic Feedback, Kelly shows that she is a musician at heart; the passages describing Jasmine's guitar playing, and the band's practices and shows, are extensive and detailed, allowing the reader to get right inside the mind of a working musician (even if it's a young, novice one). This is a well-paced, enjoyable book about overcoming obstacles - those set up in front of us by others, and those we construct ourselves. ...more
While I don't agree with everything that Jago suggests or says in this book, I do think she raises some essential questions about the hard work facingWhile I don't agree with everything that Jago suggests or says in this book, I do think she raises some essential questions about the hard work facing all English teachers, and offers some effective strategies for dealing with the paper load. Some of her ideas may elicit more discussion than agreement, but I do think that's the purpose of any "methods" textbook, to enable teachers (preservice or veteran) to make up their own minds about these issues, and find approaches that work well for them. ...more
"No one remembers where the paths go. Some say they are there as escape routes, others say they are there so that we can travel deep into the Forest f"No one remembers where the paths go. Some say they are there as escape routes, others say they are there so that we can travel deep into the Forest for wood. We only know that one points to the rising sun and the other to the setting sun. I am sure our ancestors knew where the paths led, but, just like almost everything else about the world before the Return, that knowledge has been lost.
We are our own memory-keepers and we have failed ourselves. It is like that game we played in school as children. Sitting in a circle, one student whispers a phrase into another student's ear and the phrase is passed around until the last student in the circle repeats what she hears, only to find out it is nothing like what it is supposed to be.
That is our life now."
Ever since the Return, and the onslaught of the Unconsecrated, the world has been a very different place. At this point, no one can remember what it was like before the Return, although there are stories of a world outside the village. Mary's mother told her stories of the ocean, before she and Mary's father were turned to the Unconsecrated. Now they wander outside the fence that encloses Mary's village, joining the masses that search daily for human flesh. Mary's choices are limited: she can wait for a male to select her as a bride, and help repopulate the village; or she can join the Sisterhood, the select group of women who hold the village together, establishing the rules, and guarding the secrets of the past and present. Mary wishes she could be content within the confines of the village, like her best friend, Cassandra. Even with the constant moaning from beyond the fence, and the everpresent danger of an Unconsecrated breach, there is a sense of normalcy there. Mary is also feeling torn, between her strong feelings for Travis (who has chosen Cass), and his brother, Harry. Harry does not choose Mary, Travis chooses Cass, but Mary's match is thrown into doubt after her mother strays too close to the fence, and is bitten. Mary is forced to join the Sisterhood, and adhere to their strict policies. While staying in the Sisterhood's Cathedral, Mary learns of an outsider, someone whose arrival at the village has been kept quiet by the Sisterhood. Before Mary can gain more answers as to who this outsider is, their village is attacked by hoards of Unconsecrated, including the outsider, who presents a vicious new breed of Unconsecrated. Mary's life turns to a struggle for survival, as she and others flee the village. Even as they search for others and safety beyond the fence, Mary never gives up her desire to find out what lies beyond the Forest, and whether there really is still an ocean.
As with some other sci-fi/fantasy I've read recently, I liked this one more than I expected. I thought Ryan did a nice job of building her fictional world, one that I know will become even clearer in the two follow-up novels (and yes, I do plan on reading them). The questions of free choice, and the role religion plays in any society, also helped this novel stand out from others. The writing style is not phenomenal, and the story did drag for me, when Mary was "learning" with the Sisterhood, but after the Unconsecrated breach, the pace picked up significantly. I do think this is a good representation of the post-apocalyptic/zombie trend in YA, with a strong plot, and fairly well-developed characters.
Mary and others must flee for their lives, ...more
"When I stole Cassiel's life, I thought it would be better than mine. I thought he was happier and healthier and more wholesome than me. I thought he"When I stole Cassiel's life, I thought it would be better than mine. I thought he was happier and healthier and more wholesome than me. I thought he had a loving, stable family. I wanted what he had. Now I had no idea what that was. I had no idea who any of them were.
When I only knew for sure that I was lying, how could I trust anybody else?"
Sixteen year-old Chap is a young man with no real name, no discernable past, and no future. He’s lived a large portion of his life being shuffled between foster and state homes, ever since the accident that separated him from Grandad. When he is mistaken for a missing boy named Cassiel Roadnight, he makes the choice to assume Cassiel’s identity, and “return” to his family. Chap knows he’s not really Cassiel – he’s certain that his scars and ear piercings will give him away – but he sees this as an opportunity to have a family, and an identity of his own. He’s welcomed back by Cassiel’s family, but must always be on edge, knowing that one wrong response or question could destroy his façade. But as Chap learns more about the family, and about what Cassiel knew and did right before his disappearance, it becomes apparent that there is something much more sinister going on in the Roadnight house. Something that Chap must act on, before his life, and not just his cover, is in danger.
Valentine has created a taut mystery, with enough suspense to keep readers engaged. The story drags a little after Chap assumes Cassiel’s identity, but it quickly picks up the pace as other characters are introduced, and the secrets of the Roadnights are revealed. Chap also has an intriguing backstory with his Grandad, one that sheds more light on Chap’s character, before the revelation of his true identity. ...more
"I don't remember what he sang about; I'm not sure I ever knew. It was his voice, gritty but gentle, like my father's hands when I was too small to se"I don't remember what he sang about; I'm not sure I ever knew. It was his voice, gritty but gentle, like my father's hands when I was too small to see past them, and the slow way his melody moved along its path, not in any hurry but enjoying every note for itself, rather than looking forward to the next note, and the next, until the song's end. This song would have no end; it couldn't possibly. This song was forever."
Life has been hard for Kid. S/he (Brezenoff never addresses Kid's gender) has been kicked out by the parents, and spent most of the last year living on the streets, and hanging out in Fish's Brooklyn bar, playing music down in the basement. Kid had a relationship with Felix the previous summer,which was complicated, but it led to Kid staying with Felix in an abandoned warehouse by the waterfront. But after the warehouse burned to the ground, the police suspected Kid. Cut to present day, when Kid meets Scout, another lost soul with a love for music, and a lot of baggage. But the fire still hangs over Kid's head, and as the novel reveals what really happened to the warehouse, the relationship between Kid and Felix, and between Kid and Scout, comes into much clearer focus.
I'm a huge fan of novels with specific locations, and it's easy to see Brooklyn as one of the main characters of this novel. Actual streets and locations are referenced, and the warehouse fire itself is inspired by actual events in Brooklyn in 2006. I appreciate how Brezenoff doesn't clue readers in at all as to the gender identities of Kid and Scout, but the point of view narration that is employed in order to do this becomes a little disjointed at times. The cuts back and forth in time, between Kid's time with Scout, and the events of the previous summer with Felix, are well-balanced, and help show why Kid is the way Kid is, and how that person came to be. Music fans will enjoy the flow and tempo of the book, because some of the passages are lyrical, and very evocative. Reading the book in fall makes me long for a warm July evening, under a blanket of neon, with the soundtrack of the city playing in the background. ...more
"'Stories are wild creatures,' the monster said. 'When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak.'"
Conor O'Malley is 13, and dealing w"'Stories are wild creatures,' the monster said. 'When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak.'"
Conor O'Malley is 13, and dealing with the most impossible task facing a child; his mother is stricken with cancer, and is getting sicker. Conor's parents divorced years ago, and his father now lives in America with his new wife and baby. Conor's grandmother is around, but they don't get along, even though his grandmother keeps making hints about how they'll soon need to learn how to coexist better. Conor's school life is difficult as well; he's bullied by other boys, and because his best friend told others about his mother's cancer the year before, everyone seems to be treating him differently. All he wants is to be invisible.
Then, at 12:07 one night, he is visited by a monster, a monster formed of the yew tree that stands in a churchyard behind Conor's house. The monster doesn't scare Conor, since his own nightmares have shown him much worse. The monster is persistent, though, and tells Conor that he will continue visiting until he has told Conor three stories, at which point Conor must tell a story of his own. In the meantime, Conor's mother's condition worsens, his relationships with his father and grandmother reveal themselves for what they truly are, and the bullying at school reaches a breaking point. The monster becomes the one thing Conor can truly count on in his life, and as the time for his own story nears, Conor is terrified of what the monster wants him to share. He's not ready to share the truth about his nightmares, and about his hidden feelings about his mother. But he has no choice, because his mother isn't getting any better, and invisibility at school, and in his life, is not at all what he expected it to be.
This is absolutely heart-wrenching book, and I found myself quickly identifying with Conor. Ness creates his story so simply (three stories? come on, Dickens!), that it's easy to look past this initially as a fairy tale/life lesson. But it's so much more. The relationship between Conor and the monster evolves throughout the novel, and the support the monster provides near the novel's end is both surprising and touching. The pain of losing a loved one, and the guilt that can accompany that loss, is explored in touching detail. The illustrations by Jim Kay are powerfully drawn, and serve the book exceptionally well. I had been warned that this one would be powerful before I picked it up, but it still surprised me. Knowing the backstory of the novel (Siobhan Dowd's last novel idea before her own early death from cancer), only makes the novel more poignant. A incredibly beautiful read that will stay with a reader long after the last page. ...more
Jerry Renault, a timid freshman at Trinity, upsets the natural order of things at his school, by refusing to sell chocolates for the annual fundraiser Jerry Renault, a timid freshman at Trinity, upsets the natural order of things at his school, by refusing to sell chocolates for the annual fundraiser. This is supposed to be a voluntary activity, but Jerry's actions cause Brother Leon, one of the school's administrators, to enlist the help of Archie Costello, the leader of the Vigils, Trinity's underground school gang. Things get out of hand quickly, and by the end of the novel, Jerry's resistance to selling earns him a spot in a violent boxing match, while his classmates watch.
This is another title that I'm re-reading for a course this spring, and which I haven't read for a looong time. Still, I'm very impressed with how well this book has held up over the years, at least in my opinion. The issues of peer pressure are as relevant today as they were in the 1970s, perhaps more so. Cormier's writing style is exceptional, and the figurative language he injects throughout the novel still impress me. Might be time to go back and re-read some more of his work, but not the sequel to this novel (just not anywhere near as good, for me). ...more
"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."
I so"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."
I sometimes forget how much I like this novel. This is the first time I've read it since my very first graduate class in YAL, about 13 years ago, so there was a lot I didn't remember. Hinton's book, written when she was a Tulsa teenager, is considered one of the landmark publications in young adult literature, and rightly so. Prior to Hinton, almost no authors for children/young adults were writing about "serious" topics such as gangs, difficult home lives, and death. The fact that Hinton approached these subjects (in this, and her other early novels) in a straight-forward manner, without interjecting moral lessons, and did it through a first person POV, I think, is significant. Told through the eyes of Ponyboy, this tale of class warfare, between the Greasers and the Socs, still holds water today.
I see this book taught all over the place; had we remained in Oklahoma for our daughter's middle school years, she would have read this book. It's become a staple in secondary curricula, yet also one of the most challenged books around. It's also interesting that the entire book is supposedly written as a school assignment, revealed only at the conclusion. The role of education in the novel, and the novel's adoption by schools for instructional use, seem to be intertwined. If the "way out," for Ponyboy at novel's end, is to simply study harder, and possibly leave for college some day, then that says something about the power of the individual to overcome obstacles and odds. But what does that do, if anything, for the "hundreds and hundreds of boys" to whom Ponyboy refers at the end of the book, and the social class they represent? I love when books can appear relatively simple on the surface, and present just a good read, yet offer a lot more to readers who want to dig deeper. Reading Hinton again, I'm reminded of how well she presents both options to her audience. ...more
"Walking around, listening, talking to people, I felt really . . . comfortable? The TV provided noise, so I didn't think about my stomach. Creepy Phil"Walking around, listening, talking to people, I felt really . . . comfortable? The TV provided noise, so I didn't think about my stomach. Creepy Phil gave us someone to laugh at. Victor invited me and Sandy into the card game. Who would've thought I would be playing cards with a drug dealer? This place seemed to erase all social stereotypes. There was absolutely no pressure to be cool or skinny or entertaining. I was there, and that was enough.
Trying to fall asleep afterward, all I could think was that this is the first time in a long time where I feel comfortable somewhere. It's pretty fucked up that that somewhere is a mental hospital."
Anna Bloom has been depressed, skipping school, and worrying her parents. So much so, that they commit her to the teen ward of a mental hospital. The move comes as a shock to Anna, and she reacts with anger at first, as she is kept under a suicide watch initially. As the restrictions relax, and Anna begins to get her bearings, she starts to meet the other teens in her ward. Some are there with obvious issues, others seem fine to Anna, but as she gets to know them better, she finds that some problems lie hidden deeper below the surface.
Halprin, who spent some time in a psychiatric ward as a teen herself, tells Anna's story through the letters she writes (yet never sends) to her best friend from home. Anna possesses a strong sense of humor, as well as a love of music. After her first few harrowing days in the hospital, this voice emerges more prominently. As Anna begins real friendships, and explores her first true relationship with a boy, readers see her self-image improve. I couldn't keep Ned Vizzini's _It's Kind of a Funny Story_ out of my mind as I read this, but Halprin does take a much different approach - more humor, with a strong female perspective on things. ...more
I'm glad I chose this as the "history" textbook for my YAL course - it's extensively updated from the first edition, and while I don't think every chaI'm glad I chose this as the "history" textbook for my YAL course - it's extensively updated from the first edition, and while I don't think every chapter is as strong as possible (looking at you, sex chapter), it did provide a valuable contextual framework for the development and expansion of YAL over the last 40 years. For a survey/genre course, which is what I'm teaching now, I really can't think of a better text to use. ...more
“There are three things you never want to find in your boyfriend’s locker: a sweaty jockstrap, a D minus on last week’s history test, and an empty con “There are three things you never want to find in your boyfriend’s locker: a sweaty jockstrap, a D minus on last week’s history test, and an empty condom wrapper. Lucky me, I’d hit the trifecta.”
Hartley is having what can only be described as an extremely bad day. First, she discovers that her boyfriend is sneaking around with Courtney, the supposedly chaste captain of the Color Guard, a discovery that everyone else in her Silicon Valley high school has apparently already made. Later, when she goes to confront her boyfriend about the affair, she discovers the body of that same Color Guard virgin in his closet, strangled with a pair of iPod earbuds. With that, Hartley quickly becomes immersed in the questions of who killed Courtney, and whether her (now ex-) boyfriend could possibly have done it. And if not him, then who? With the help of her best friend, and the mysterious bad boy/school paper’s editor, Hartley begins to investigate. After another Color Guard member is killed, Hartley’s investigation intensifies, as does the danger to her own life.
Halliday’s first book for teen audiences effectively combines a murder mystery with daily high school drama. Hartley is a believable heroine, one who doesn’t want to be thrust into the role she’s playing, and the dialogue is authentic, without dragging on the fast-moving plot. Some of the mentions of popular products and stores, however, date the book. And while readers may peg the killer early, that doesn’t detract from the way the mystery unfolds, or the sharp humor that’s layered throughout the novel (fans of Veronica Mars will likely appreciate this one). Some discussions of sex would make this more appropriate for older readers. ...more
"It breaks my heart that this is happening in another town. The Ravenchilde books are the best thing to happen to literacy practically since the alpha"It breaks my heart that this is happening in another town. The Ravenchilde books are the best thing to happen to literacy practically since the alphabet was invented. I've seen kids completely transformed once they start reading Apathea. Overnight, they're avid readers. They dramatically improve in school, and become more intellectually curious. These books keep their imaginations alive. That's priceless."
Neil Barton feels like an outcast in his small town of Americus, Oklahoma. His best friend has just been sent off to military school by his ultra-religious mother, and he's faced with starting his freshman year on his own. To make matters worse, his favorite book series is being challenged by that same mother, leading to a bitter fight over intellectual freedom, and the place of books and imagination in children's lives.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did, but it just didn't work for me. Censorship is a valuable topic for YA and GNs, and this book will be released to coincide with Banned Book Week in September. But the treatment of the censorship case just seemed too heavy-handed to me; the mother who brings the challenge to the book series (which seems loosely based on the Harry Potter series) is painted as a grotesque monster, with no redeeming qualities. While there are strident voices in favor of banning/removing books, the situations are often more complex than what is presented here. I understand that the point of the book is to bring the debate over censorship to a younger reading audience, many of whom are affected by these types of debates, but it just seemed to simplistic to me. I also was offended, as a former resident of the state, by the depiction of Oklahoma as nothing more than a bunch of small-town, small-minded conservative zealots (except for Neil, his mother, and the local librarians). People like that exist everywhere. Censorship can touch any community, anywhere - the Bible Belt may be an easy target, but again, the picture of censorship is much more complicated than that. I do appreciate the fine artwork in this book, but if I'm going to try to introduce a student to censorship, I'll probably hand her Crutcher's The Sledding Hill before this one. ...more